Special Issue: Archives of Afro-Asia: Excavating the Cultural Politics of the Early Decolonisation Era
Archives of Afro-Asia: Excavating the Cultural Politics of the Early Decolonisation Era
Special Issue of Itinerario: Journal of Imperial and Global Interactions (Cambridge University Press)
The Bandung Conference of 1955 is commonly described as a pivotal moment in international politics – both a critical space of political articulation of the “Third World” and a prelude to the Non-Alignment Movement of the 1960s. While an earlier historical literature on the “Bandung moment” and the era of Afro-Asian solidarity has tended to primarily focus on interstate diplomacy and international cooperation, in the last decades, and especially since the conference’s fiftieth anniversary in 2005, scholars from the humanities and social sciences have been working in re-thinking and opening up the field in creative and productive directions. As the cultural and literary turns prompted a pluralisation of research agendas and methodologies in historical scholarship more broadly, scholars of Afro-Asian encounters have been moving away from perspectives that reify the nation-state as the locus of historical narration, to focus instead on cultural and discursive production and circulation as deeply constitutive of the politics of decolonisation and Afro-Asian solidarity. This includes promising research on the “cultural Cold War” and a rising interest in modes of writing and representation that cut across – and complicate – the cultural and racial boundaries and political formations of the decolonising world. Likewise, scholars have been increasingly aware of the “archive” not as a reservoir of information to be mined, but as a political and dynamic space to be critically engaged, questioned and subverted. A particularly exciting avenue of research is focused on the silences, absences, and exclusions produced by the colonial archive, leading to a critical engagement with marginalised institutional spaces – such as underexplored public and private archives in the Global South – and other registers and practices of archive making, beyond conventional textual and documental forms.
In order to grasp the heterogeneous nature and non-linear dynamics shaping the Afro-Asian movement, especially in view of the relative dearth – but increasing number – of studies that examine the everyday performance of Afro-Asian solidarity, this Special Issue of Itinerario will excavate the material, textual, affective, and performative dimensions of Afro-Asia in the early decolonisation era. We are interested in mapping out the imaginative geographies and political formations produced and inhabited by Afro-Asian writers, activists, and intellectuals; in taking account of the pragmatics of transnational interactions and dialogue; and in exploring the multiple archives and registers of the Afro-Asian movement.
We invite proposals considering the “Archives of Afro-Asia” problematic in the following terms:
- Beyond Textual Register: we encourage papers interrogating historical sources and archival registers that cannot be captured, limited, and subsumed to textual forms. We are especially interested in studies exploring the critical possibilities associated with integrating records of orality, musicality, visual cultures, performance, and the senses in our understandings of the early decolonisation era.
- Beyond Colonial Temporality: We invite papers exploring the creative and critical potential of marginalising “the colonial era” and moving towards innovative approaches to the “pre-colonial register” and Afro-Asian futurities. We also welcome papers that explore how Afro-Asian actors mobilised notions of the “pre-colonial” and various forms of “futurology” in the early decolonisation era.
- Beyond Territorial Locations: colonial archives are territorially bounded institutions, in both material and epistemic terms. They reside in buildings, cities, nations, and their practices of organisation of knowledge are shaped by the territoriality of the state itself. Yet, Afro-Asia is a fluid de-territorialised arena marked by circulations. We welcome papers invested in displacing territorial imaginations to re-centre the “oceanic” as productive space.
- Beyond the Human: modern colonialism was a deeply anthropocentric affair, as it produced not only the de-humanisation of Europe’s racial “other”, but also the marginalisation of non-human actors through processes of capitalist extraction and environmental degradation. We invite papers that interrogate the process by which the boundaries of humanity were being re-negotiated during the early decolonisation era, as well as papers exploring the agency or role of non-human actors in the Afro-Asian moment.
- Complicating Authorship: We welcome papers that expand the “canon” of Afro-Asian authorship beyond the male, bourgeois, and European(ised) self, to include texts, discourses and forms of representations speaking to inner experiences of Afro-Asian otherness and uttered from marginalised positions (e.g. voices of feminist, working class and queer subjects).
- Pluralising Textual Forms: Afro-Asian print cultures were necessarily diverse. They included statements, resolutions, and other texts produced at conferences, symposia and gatherings of activists and intellectuals, as well as a number of periodicals and books involving fictional and non-fictional writing. In addition to these highly visible materials, we invite papers dealing with personal or marginalised archives of Afro-Asia – such as diaries, letters, and other forms of self-writing that went unpublished or circulated outside main publishing networks.
- Epistemic Creativity and Disobedience: Afro-Asianism has more frequently been studied as an eminently political project. We know relatively less about how intellectuals, thinkers and researchers of the decolonising world engaged academic discourse and the labour of theory. As intellectual, social, and student movements demand the decolonisation of the University and of the disciplines in our current moment, we invite papers interrogating the practices of epistemic creativity and disobedience undertaken by Afro-Asian actors during the decolonisation era.
- The Social and Material Lives of Texts: books, periodicals, newspapers, and texts in general are material objects and commodities in their own right, emerging from the convergence of cultural, political and economic forces. We welcome contributions interested in following the material lives of texts and exploring their historical role as concretised expressions of relations of textual and cultural production. We are interested in papers that interrogate the notion of Afro-Asian print culture and readerships, especially looking at the circulation and consumption of printed texts across transnational and local scales.
If you wish to contribute to this Special Issue, please submit proposals containing title, institutional affiliation, and an abstract of no more than 500 words to the editors, Caio Simões de Araújo (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Luca Raimondi (email@example.com) by 15 January 2021. Notifications of acceptance will be sent out by 22 January 2021. Full papers of 8,000-10,000 words max. in length are expected by 1 May 2021.